E-Sylum Feature Writer and
American Numismatic Biographies author Pete Smith submitted this
article on the first woman member of the Professional Numismatists Guild. Thanks!
This week I asked myself a question, who was the first American woman coin dealer? I do not know the answer so I asked another question. Who was the first woman member of the Professional Numismatists Guild (PNG)? That one I could answer.
Catherine Elias Bullowa-Moore (1919-2017)
She was born as Catherine Elias in Larchmont, New York, on July 21, 1919. Her parents were bank president Henry and Edna Elias. She attended Connecticut College and graduated in 1941 with a degree in zoology. She later credited her education for her ability to grade coins.
That's how I knew how to grade coins, from looking at things through a microscope and a magnifying glass.
Out of college she taught physiology at the Long Island College of Medicine and later at Cornell Medical School.
After Army service during World War II, David Marks Bullowa (1912-1953) bought the coin business of Ira Reed in 1946. David met Catherine Elias at the home of Hans M. F. Schulman in 1951 and he hired her to work in the store. They were married on May 3, 1952. Less than two years later, David died of Hodgkin Disease on September 12, 1953. Catherine took over the business to become a full-time woman coin dealer.
Shortly after she married David, she applied for associate membership in the ANA and was given number 21166. In September of 1958, she converted to life membership LM 355. In 2006 she was inducted into the ANA Numismatic Hall of Fame. (The only woman dealer in the HOF)
Catherine served on the executive committee of the International Association of Professional Numismatists (IAPN) from 1953 to 1971 and then as vice president 1972 to 1979. She was one of the founding members of the Professional Numismatists Guild and issued member number 003 on January 1, 1955. She served as their membership chairman for six years.
She married Earl E. Moore (1914-2001) on June 27, 1959. Clearing out the Bullowa business, she shipped 3000 pounds of coins to Dan Brown in Denver. She also donated 21,531 world coins, medals, and paper currencies to the Smithsonian Institution. The donation was noted for 504 early German and Italian silver and copper coins and 62 Goetz medals.
She worked briefly for Lester Merkin and continued to conduct business at coin shows.
On October 27, 1961, she opened Coinhunter in Philadelphia. The firm conducted auctions from 1974 to 2007. Coinhunter was located in Room 1006 at 1616 Walnut Street in Philadelphia, an Art Deco historic landmark.
On June 5, 1964, three gunmen came into the office on the twelfth floor, tied up the staff and raided the safe for about $120,000 in rare coins. Suspects were apprehended and charged.
In 1965, she served on the United States Assay Commission.
Still at 1616 Walnut Street, in 1984 she moved up into more space and Suite 2112. Her business expanded to include documents and autographs which were the special interest of Earl Moore.
In 1997 she was honored by the PNG with their first Lifetime Achievement Award. She was inducted into the PCGS Coin Dealer Hall of fame in 2020.
Catherine died at home on May 15, 2017, and is buried with Earl Moore at Arlington Cemetery in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania. She had no children.
This brings me back to my original question with several variations.
1. Who was the first American woman coin dealer?
2. Who was the first woman coin dealer who did not follow her husband in the business?
3. Who was the first woman to have a bourse table at an ANA convention?
4. Who was the first woman to conduct a numismatic auction?
Do any E-Sylum readers have the answers to these questions or similar questions?
All great questions! While there are prominent female collectors from the past (such as Sarah Banks and Emery May Norweb) and female dealers of today (such as Ingrid O'Neil and Shanna Schmidt), I'm not familiar with many women dealers of earlier eras, but I'm sure there must be a number of them in the U.S. and around the world. I can only think of one pre-WWII U.S. woman in the coin business.
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
CATHERINE BULLOWA-MOORE (1919-2017)
Wayne Homren, Editor
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